Sunday, January 6, 2013

Urban Fantasy: The Skill List

The game about high school teenagers slowly discovering their supernatural heritage and the obligations that come with it needs skills (apart from also needing a catchy name, but that's another story). The list given in FATE Core serves as a starting point, but I feel that the skill names should reflect the setting (and I don't like some of the skill names).

The names and skills that work are Athletics, Burglary, Crafts, Drive, Empathy, Fighting, Notice, Physique, Shooting, Stealth and Will.

But some of the other names and skills don't work quite so well. Let's take a look at Contacts, Deceit, Intimidation, Investigation, Lore, Rapport and Resources. They all sound very adult and high-minded. I want something more juvenile that sounds like teenagers would do it.

Contacts: I don't think that teenagers would have contacts. High school seems to be about being popular and  popularity seems to decide if other students do you favors. So I would call that skill "Popularity" and otherwise leave it as it is.

Deceit: Sounds very adult and also includes the ability to project false personas. Something I don't see teenagers doing. So I would go with "Lying" instead of Deceit.

Initimidation: Again, I don't see teenagers as intimidating some one. At school you are usually "Bullying" people.

Investigation and Lore: Both skills usually tie together somehow in a modern setting with supernatural elements. In much of the source material investigation usually involves hitting the books (be it in Gilles' library,  old diaries in the Salvatore household or reading werewolf hunter files on a tablet PC). Then there are people in the know. They just know from personal experience and study about the supernatural. Also, since this is high school, academic achievement and knowledge about science is present in the setting. But is that important enough to the story that I need a skill for that? One last issue that plays into Investigation and Lore is the presence of computers. In many games that is still considered a separate skill. But in the end, computers are on the verge of becoming ubiquitous tools that anyone can handle without much knowledge. Simply start the app. That is what I am going to do:

Investigation gains an emphasis on research in the library or online. It really doesn't matter where you get your knowledge. It is important that you how to search for clues and how to execute your searches. Thus Investigation becomes "Research". The skill can be used to overcome obstacles and create advantages, but no attacks and defenses. I could see both happening with preparation, so they'd be the province of stunts.

Lore is a bit more difficult. It could be split into a mundane skill called Academics or Science and a supernatural skill called Lore or Occult or Mysteries. But I am not going to do that. The game is about the slow discovery of supernatural abilities. Therefore there will be no skill (except Research) that allows a player to bypass the process of discovery through play. They simply won't know. They have to experience the supernatural. I still would like to measure academic achievement though and generally obscure (but practical) knowledge like Willow and Danny being knowledgable hackers, or Lydia being able to brew a pyrophric cocktail. Or simply having a skill that can be rolled to determine the success on an exam. I am thinking "Geek" here. The skill can be used to overcome obstacles and create advantages. Various special applications can be modelled by stunts.

Rapport: I simply don't like the name of that skill. If you are being nice to someone to get what you want, you simply turn on your charm. So Rapport gets renamed to "Charm".

Resources: Adults have resources, teenagers usually have allowances. So that's what I am going to call the skill: "Allowance". Still someone with a Great (+4) Allowance will probably rather drive a Porsche than a Rabbit to school.

The final skill list for an urban fantasy game set at a high school than looks like this:

  • Allowance
  • Athletics
  • Bullying
  • Burglary
  • Charm
  • Crafts
  • Drive
  • Empathy
  • Fighting
  • Geek
  • Lying
  • Notice
  • Physique
  • Popularity
  • Research
  • Shooting
  • Stealth
  • Will

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